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The Winter Palace. Ages and Styles

The Epoch of the Historicism
Due to the active construction of both public and private buildings basing on the principles of Classical architecture Saint Petersburg by the beginning of 1840-s acquired the view of "strict and proportioned" nature, admired by Pushkin and his contemporaries, brought up on the high civil ideas.
But the society that had experienced great patriotic enthusiasm during the Patriotic War, was tired of cold canonic official art aimed at the maintaning the prestige of the Russian monarchy during the reign of Nicholas I who used to regulate both the life and the spirit of the society.
Gogol said that architecture was devoid of "capriciosness". The thirst for divercity of architectural forms and more comfortable interiors satisfying the tastes and needs of the inhabitants, gave rise to the new artistic trend - the Historicism, that draw ideas from the rich inheritance of the past. Alexander Bryullov, a brilliant master of the interior, was one of the most outstanding representatives of the new style. His contemporary Bashutsky wrote: "We were surprised with his unusually proportioned and magnificent ideas, pure taste, that was consistent to the slightest detail, and his rich inventions, manifested in numerous and always successful architectural motifs..." Created by Bryullov the Malachite Room of the Winter Palace that connected the suite of rooms along the Neva with the rooms of Alexandra Feodorovna, the wife of Nicholas I, became a recognised masterpiece of the art of interior in Russia. Lavish decorations of the columns and fire-places with precious malachite from the Urals in combination with gilded doors and elaborate ornaments on the ceiling astonished contemporaries.
Great (Blackamoor) Dining-room, that got this name because blackamoors used to serve the table on official occasions, was designed in the style of antique architecture. The Small (Pompeian) Dining-room was designed by Bryullovn soon after the architect had visited the excavations of the Roman town of Pompeii, that was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius. The decor of this dining-room was changed later but some objects from the furniture set, made from the design of Bryullov specially for the Pompeian room, were preserved.
Before the wedding of the Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich (the future Emperor Alexander II) and Maria Alexandrovna (Princess Hessen-Darmstadt) the architect decorated the rooms for the bride on the ground floor in the south-western part of the building. Bright expensive upholstery, elegant ornaments in the bedroom, boudoir, study and the Golden Drawing Room produced the impression of delicate comfort. Refined design of the gala White Hall, that belonged to the suite of private rooms of Maria Alexandrovna, was based exclusively on the white colour and thus contrasted with the smart embellishment of her living rooms. One of the most impressive gala rooms designed by Bryullov is the Alexander Hall with Gothic style variations that formed its architectural appearance: clustered piers, groin vaults, carrying cupolas. Stucco decor with motifs of military glory, 24 medallions with allegoric representations of the most significant moments of the Patriotic War of 1812, portrait of Alexander I as a warrior of Old Russia ( by Feodor Tolstoy) reminded that Alexander's Hall was a memorial hall. In 1840-s - 1860-s Andrei Stakenschneider, an architect of brilliant eductaion and knowledge, worked in the Winter Palace, in the Small and Great Hermitages. In the Pavillion Hall of the Small Hermitage he exquisitely and naturally combined the Renaissance, Gothic and Oriental motifs and constructed one of the most attractive interiors. In the Winter Palace Andrei Stakenschneider trimmed the rooms of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the then fashionable Rococo style. In the same style he also decorated a new dining room in the suite of rooms of Princess Maria Alexandrovna and renewed in a more gala appearance some rooms, designed by Bryullov, by refreshing the gilding and the furniture.
Luxuriously embellished boudoir of the wife of Alexander II was made to the design of the architect Bosset in the same fashionable Neostyle, that interlinked with the baroque interiors of the Winter Palace in an organic way.
On February 5, 1880 the Winter Palace witnessed an explosion of the bomb, put by terrorists in order to kill the Emperor Alexander II. Fortunately Alexander was at that moment far from the place of explosion and nobody was wounded. But a year la ter, on March 1, 1881 Alexander II, who abolished serfdom, liberated peasants and gave the Russian society the hope for reasonable reforms in the state, was assasinated by another bomb. His son Alexander III took into account this experience. He would never believe either the subjects, capable of assasination of their monarch, or the walls of the palace, that could hardly defend him.
Alexander avoided living in the official royal residence, he spent summers in Gatchina and winters in the Anichkov Palace. Nevertheless in 1894 rooms for the heir of the throne Nikolai Alexandrovich started to be redecorated in the Winter Palace. Two years later after the death of Alexander III the new Russian Emperor would settle down here with his young wife Alexandra Feodorovna (Princess Hessen-Darmstadt).
The rooms meant for the future Emperor and his family were decorated taking into account modern requirements of the Historicism style characterised by the tendency to cosiness and comfort. The architect, responsible for the redecoration of the rooms for the new royal couple, Krasovsky replaced vaults by flat ceilings and used up-to-date materials - wall-paper, chintz upholstery, leather and wooden panels. The library, preserved till today, designed in the Gothic style gives a good idea of the embellishment of the rooms of Nicholas II, marked with a certain duskiness. The rooms of Alexandra Feodorovna were decorated modestly in the style of Classicism of Louis XVI. Cosy and exquisite was the rocaille design of the Small dining- room, intended for family dinners and situated next to the official suite of rooms along the Neva. The decor of this room was preserved without any alterations.
In 1904 the last Russian Emperor left the Winter Palace forever and settled down in the Alexander Palace in the Tsar's Village. Since that time the Winter Palace became the place for official ceremonies. Life stopped in the splendid huge building, constructed by order of Peter's daughter Elizabeth, witnessing the triumphs of Catherine the Great and her magnificent reign, that became the symbol of the Russian monarchy for her grandsons. The last page was filled in in the encyclopaedia of Russian architecture that demonstrates today different epochs and styles that replaced each other in the course of two centuries of the existence of the Winter Palace.


Malachite Drawing-room
Photo
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Pompeii Dining-room Konstantin Ukhtomskii
Water-colour
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White Hall
Luigi Premazzi
Water-colour
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Maria Alexandrovna' s Bedroom
Luigi Premazzi
Water-colour
Larger view


Golden Drawing-room
Alexander Kolb
Water-colour
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White Drawing-room
Konstantin Ukhtomskii
Water-colour
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Library of Emperor Nicholas II
Photo
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Small Dining-room
Photo
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